If you live in the West, chances are that you've visited a building without a 13th floor or boarded a plane without a row #13. In fact, you probably rarely think twice about the fact that these numbers are so frequently skipped in your home culture, but you might be surprised to see the numbers 4, 9, or 17 omitted when you are traveling abroad.
Superstitions exist in many parts of the world, but the numbers associated with bad luck — or good — tend to vary from one place to another. While this kind of information is generally known to natives within a given market, it isn't intuitive to foreigners. As a result, companies often make unintentional numerical and cultural blunders when launching their presence in a new market.
At Smartling, we compiled a research roundup on superstitions regarding numbers around the world, which we vetted with translators in our global network. We found that knowing about numerical superstitions is important for any business that seeks to expand internationally — especially in the realm of international marketing. Here are some common places we found where numbers can get your company into trouble:
Pricing: Customers in the West might raise eyebrows at a product priced at $6.66, but people in many parts of the world would not. In Chinese, the pronunciation of 666 sounds like the phrase, "things going smoothly" and is considered to be very lucky. Many businesses even hang the number above their door. However, in Japan specifically, the number 9 is a bad-luck number that sounds like "suffering" when spoken aloud; so a price of $9.99, while common in the West, would be viewed negatively.